Sunday, February 14, 2016
There is no doubt that most of us have searched online for health advice. The Internet offers a whole new way of researching and finding treatments and health information. It’s not only convenient because it can be accessed where and when you like, but it can also save the time spent waiting to see your GP; it even allows you to buy prescriptions and supplements with just the click of a button.
But how valuable is the online health advice and should you follow it? If you are using the Internet as a source of health information, there are certain considerations to bear in mind before you jump straight in with self-diagnosis and treatment.
First and foremost, it’s important to ensure that where you have sourced your health advice from is a viable and reliable source. Each country has different medical practices and regulations, so what might be suggested on a US website, may not be appropriate for health treatment in the UK.
Furthermore, there are a number of websites, such as some online pharmacies, that may not be regulated by a governing medical body and could be offering unfounded treatments and health advice. If you are seeking advice and buying medications online, be sure to check their authenticity by doing a little research yourself into the company: check if they have the MHRA logo displayed and the names and qualifications of their stuff, to make sure they are fully qualified to be offering these services. If you put the company name into a search engine or the name of the health specialist, you should be able to find some background information about them. If it doesn’t seem to add up, move on and find another source.
With so much online health advice now available, it can be difficult to sift through all the information and know which advice to take. A good place to start is by sticking with advice from names you know, such as the NHS website, Patient website or our online pharmacy. This way you know they operate using qualified medical professionals and are well-regulated.
It’s also a good idea to avoid buying any form of prescription drugs or supplements from foreign countries, despite them being cheap or not available to you in the UK. Many countries operate under different regulations and testing practices that may not meet UK compliance and, therefore, could do you more harm than good.
When you are researching health advice online, as with most things, it’s always good to get a second opinion and not just take the first piece of information you read as gospel. With this, you have a few options: you can continue your search online, in which case, try to pick out medical organisations you know and recognise, such as the NHS or the General Medical Council (GMC), where you know the advice is going to be reliable. Secondly, look to your GP or practice nurse for health advice, this way you know you’re getting a genuine face-to-face consultation and have the opportunity to ask questions too. Thirdly, visit a community pharmacy, where they can also offer you reliable and sound health advice on a wide range of health issues.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that when you’re reading about symptoms online, you should try to keep a little perspective. Numerous symptoms have crossovers with other more serious health problems, plus much of the information provided gives a broad overview of a health issue and doesn’t take additional personal factors into account. For example, if you’re experiencing headaches and dizziness, you can easily type in these symptoms and believe you have a more sinister problem.
Furthermore, if you are seeking advice on treatments or dietary advice, be wary of anyone promising instant results or miracle cures, as these are likely to be untrue and could potentially do more harm than good. If it sounds too good to be true, it most probably is.
Before you embark on any online treatment or medication or begin self-diagnosis from online advice, it’s incredibly important to speak to a qualified medical professional, be it your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist. There isn’t anything wrong with utilising the wonders and accessibility of the internet’s online advice but err with caution as there may be inherent risks to your health that you’re not aware of with a particular treatment. Seeking sound advice beforehand will ensure it’s the right treatment or medication for you to be using.
If you have any concerns about your health, don't hesitate to get in touch with us. We will make sure to take into account all your symptoms, medical history and personal features before prescribing any treatment.